“A Civilization Without Homes”

in Citizen Hobo

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2003 | ISBN: 9780226143781
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226143804 | DOI:
“A Civilization Without Homes”

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This chapter describes the civilization of hoboes. The new work on urban homelessness that culminated in the publication of The Hobo represented a dramatic departure from the underlying assumptions and concepts that had governed responses to the great army of tramps in the late nineteenth century. While the nineteenth-century tramp had rediscovered his primal self at the expense of civilization, the twentieth-century homeless man had gained a civilization by sacrificing home. The dramatic expansion of the migratory and white-collar workforce in the late nineteenth century overwhelmed the small-scale boarding-house system. Representing the triumph of specialization, labor subdivision, and economies of scale, the new system not only accommodated more people, but also functionally divided the single boardinghouse into a specialized network of hotels and their support institutions, such as cheap cafés, restaurants, and laundries.

Keywords: hoboes; civilization; tramps; boarding-house system; hotels

Chapter.  16379 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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